The Dolores school board and interview committee on Tuesday questioned four candidates for the position of interim superintendent of Dolores School District RE-4.
Questions centered on the candidates’ achievements and leadership styles, student achievement, district budgets and community unity.
The candidates were Robert Rime, Greg Rockhold, Phil Kasper and Mark McHale. Each faced the same 20 questions and had the chance to ask the board and committee follow-up questions.
CommunicationCandidates revealed communication styles throughout.
Rime emphasized the value of transparency and open lines of communication.
“In the absence of information, people will think the worst,” he said.
Rockhold said he likes to seek out parents’ views, rather than wait for them to come to his office. He said he’d buy them a cup of coffee and listen to them.
McHale also said he likes to get out of the office and get to know the students. Ultimately, though, he made clear that he was accountable, saying that “the buck stops here.”
Kasper values communication and problem solving. “I want to build an outcome together,” he said.
Student achievementThe candidates agreed that assessments of student growth and change are needed, though how they progress is a matter of style and focus.
“Things need to work for kids, and we run the school district like a business,” McHale said. “But the bottom line is not business, it is student achievement.”
Kasper said that education at its finest when focused on relationships.
“It is all about the curriculum that you put in front of boys and girls,” Kasper said. “What I have found is good teaching is timeless. It is about communication, it is about relationships, it is about knowing what outcomes are wanted.”
Rockhold agreed and cited his own Eagle Scout and Marines experience as part of his leadership when it comes to student achievements.
District unityAll the candidates said they would encourage students, staff and parents to bring problems to them. They all agreed that the Dolores school community, which currently faces an attempt to recall two school board members, and recently lost its athletic director and superintendent, needs to heal.
“I think one of the first things I would do is be visible,” Rime said. “I would also try to be out and about in the community and be visible at games and that sort of stuff.”
The budgetWhen the committee and board questioned candidates about hard budget decisions all answered with anecdotes about reducing staff during hard times.
“The state went a billion dollars in the drain eight or nine years back, and so many districts scrambled,” Rockhold said. “We had to go ahead and RIF (reduction in force) three people, it was either RIF these people or the ship sinks. We cut and diced everything we could, and it came down to those people. When it comes down to it, sometimes you have to make the hard decisions even if it gives you a little heartbreak.”
Rime spoke extensively about his emphasis on planning and budgeting, and how important they are to running a district.
“There is never enough money for schools,” Rime said. “Unfortunately, the profession that makes all other professions possible seems to get beat up the most. You know what is happening, you know you need to replace these computers ... plan ahead and set money back and bite the bullet in some situations.”
Hopes for Dolores schoolsThe final question in the interview was, “What are your greatest hopes for bringing your leadership to this district?”
Rime said that he has kept up with the goings-on at the school and didn’t want to stand on the sidelines. “I can either stay on the sidelines with some of the naysayers and just sit there or was I going to step up to the plate and be willing to do something about bringing people together and being that public relations person and listening to what people have to say. And we are all here for the same thing, for the success of the kids,” he said.
Rockhold hoped to focus on building relationships with staff to help them improve. “I bring the ability to come alongside everyone I come into contact with and find out what part I can play with that person in regard to ensuring they are providing the best academics for their children,” he said.
Kasper focused on achievement. “Everyone in this room has to be embarrassed about that,” he said. “It is called ‘work,’ and we have to set aside seven hours a day to do this work together.”
McHale, focusing on the interim status of the position, said he wanted the district to feel good about the direction it was headed in a year. “If we could get past our differences, then we have a real goal in mind and a real plan to get there,” he said. “We can make some progress, but I would like to see you walk out of here for a long-term plan.”
About the processThe candidates were told that they would hear about the status of their applications as early as this week.
According to district Secretary Laurie Arnett, the interview committee was chosen by lottery from certified staff, parents and community members.
Department directors were invited to sit in as well. Finance director Doreen Jones, Elementary Principal Gary Livick, Secondary Principal Jen Hufman and Preschool Director Valiena Rosenkrance attended. Board vice president Kay Phelps was absent because of a prior engagement.